Building a System of Quality Assurance for the Teaching Profession

Article excerpt

Moving into the 21st Century

The continuum of teacher preparation and development described in this special section represents a new collaboration on the education scene, Mr. Wise points out.

Our nation's economy and the American workplace have changed dramatically in the past 40 years. The skills needed for successful living have altered radically, primarily as a result of the technological revolution and its impact on most jobs and professions. Technology is changing the way we work and live. When we come into the office, we check our voice mail and e-mail. We send paper documents over the phone lines. We use a vast network of computers to search for all manner of information, from reports issued by education organizations to the latest White House initiative.

But American schools, by and large, are still geared to produce students for a nation that, in many ways, no longer exists. Schools of education must provide school systems with prospective teachers who can help students function in our new society, and that means that the teachers themselves must gain new skills and new knowledge.

For too long, teacher preparation and licensing have been hostage to the status quo. Some promising reforms, such as yearlong internships and the concept of the professional development school, have been developed, but they are still not the norm. Most systems find change difficult, and education is no exception. We must find new incentives to stimulate change throughout the system.

The field has begun to rise to the challenge. Since the mid-1980s, education has engaged in unprecedented standard-setting for students - and for teachers. Standards for what beginning and experienced teachers should know and be able to do are now being developed. The new standards emphasize teacher performance, and this emphasis is leading to more rigorous teacher assessment than ever before. Out of the various sets of standards and emerging assessments, a system is beginning to evolve.

To ensure quality in teaching, it is time for the profession to develop and embrace a system of quality assurance that is already used by other professions. Such a system is composed of sets of standards within three interconnected systems:

* accreditation of institutions that prepare teachers,

* performance-based initial licensing, and

* certification of accomplished teachers.

All education reform efforts will be strengthened by a system of quality assurance that lasts throughout a teacher's careen The idea of teacher preparation and development as a continuum from preservice preparation to certification(*) is the basis for a proposed extension of teacher preparation into three phases:

* preservice preparation,

* extended clinical preparation and assessment, and

* continuing professional development.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) are each developing and implementing standards and assessments that teachers will meet along the path of preparation and continuing development. The three mechanisms - accreditation, state licensing, and board certification - can become a coherent system for quality assurance for the teaching profession. For the first time, all three organizations are working together to develop complementary standards, so that preparation standards reflect the skills and knowledge needed for state licensing examinations and so that both accreditation and licensing help candidates and teachers build the skills needed for success on board certification assessments. …